The Ultimate Guide to Client Onboarding [Step-by-Step]
Efficient client onboarding will set you up for success. It serves as a base for positive client relationships and streamlines project workflow. In this guide, you will learn what onboarding is, what it entails, and why it is important for the success of your business.
What is Client Onboarding?
Client onboarding is the procedure whereby a business initiates a confirmed new client contract. This is the time to build strong relationships with clients and put their concerns at ease. It is the foundation of setting a client project in motion.
By the end of the onboarding process, the client should feel confident in partnering with your business to achieve their goals.
Why Client Onboarding is Important
Client onboarding can make a big impact on your business success and long-term work opportunities. Here are 5 ways in which smooth client onboarding will positively affect your business:
- Creating a solid foundation of trust and organizational competence assures the client that you are the best company for the job. If the client doubts the company’s ability to reach the desired outcome, they will leave.
- Having an efficient client onboarding process in place streamlines workflow.
- Setting clear expectations from the beginning prevents misunderstandings and keeps budgets in check.
- Satisfied clients will refer your business to their network. Referrals are a powerful source of marketing. Make a good impression from the beginning and your clients will do your marketing for you.
- An effective onboarding process will help you keep track of legal documents and contracts to ensure the necessary compliance.
Essential Steps in the Client Onboarding Workflow
There are 6 main stages that should be addressed and completed as part of the business onboarding workflow.
- Evaluate client needs and resources
Every client is different. You need to find out what your client’s expectations are. Find out what they have in place to reach their goals and where there may be short-comings. Document the positive aspects as well as the challenges that may arise during the project.
- Formulate a plan
Now that you have a clear idea of your client’s goal and the resources available, formulate a plan. This should include:
- A clear outline of the goal
- Steps that will be taken to bridge possible shortcomings
- A timeline of expected outcomes
- Team Set-up
To achieve the project goals effectively and efficiently assign a team with the most suited project-specific skills.
- Team Orientation Meeting
Before introducing your team to the client be sure to brief them thoroughly on the project. This briefing session should include:
- Information about the client, their goals, resources, challenges, and relevant industry information
- Introduce the project team to each other if necessary
- Go through the contract, sale, legal documents, and compliance procedures involved
- Assign the team with preparation tasks or research before they meet the client. Each team member needs to ensure their department pitch is on point and knowledgeable.
- Client Meeting
Set up a meeting with your and your client’s teams. This is the time for your team to make a first-class impression as experts. Your meeting should include:
- An introduction to the team
- Thorough project overview: what the project is and what it is about
- Project objectives overview: what the project aims to achieve and how
- Clarification of expectations: what the contract includes, excludes, and documents or information required
- Follow-up action: outline the next steps in the project timeline
As the project leader, follow up with the client personally after 30 days to get their feedback. Convey your commitment to providing excellent service.
Each step in the client onboarding workflow process entails some important tasks. Below is a breakdown and checklist of action steps required during the onboarding process.
- Welcome the client onboard
Welcome the client with a personalized email, information pack, or video.
- Gather the relevant client information
Straight after welcoming the client, it is time to start data collection. This may happen through a personal meeting or questionnaire. Gather all the information needed to get the project started. This may include legal documents, contracts, project specifics, and budgets.
- Define expectations
Clarify expectations throughout the project timeline. Include details such as time-specific milestones, budget allocation, service inclusions, exclusions, and feedback. Be clear about what is required from the client with deadlines to get the project started.
Don’t promise something you cannot deliver.
- Set up a project-specific communication system or platform
One of the most important aspects of successful teamwork is good communication. Put a communication system with protocols in place.
This may include the following:
- A central database for project documents, progress reports, assessments, education, agreements, and contacts that are accessible to the entire team.
- Protocols regarding communication schedules and feedback frequency
- Feedback procedures and documenting schedules, tasks, and progress
- Choose one or two systems that the entire team will use
Ensure that everyone, including the client, knows and has access to the main point of contact for the project.
Tips for Successful Onboarding
Set clear, quantifiable goals
Setting clear goals that can be measured throughout the project timeline reduces the chance for misunderstandings. This way key milestones can be evaluated, and a detailed action plan can be drawn up. This also allows simplifying the necessary feedback, accountability, and budget predictions.
Design a very thorough client onboarding survey
Get all the information you need and a little extra. Besides budgets, legal aspects, and the extent of the project scope, try to get a better understanding of the client’s working personality. Ask the client:
- How they would define the project’s success
- About their previous experience working with other companies
- How often they expect to get project feedback
- How involved they want to be in the details
Don’t start before you are ready
No project should start before all the relevant documents have been received, signed, and verified. Ensure deposits are in place. Your full team should be well prepared for project commencement with skills and knowledge before starting. Having all this in place can save you a lot of misfortune and difficulty later on.
Well-planned client onboarding can make a big difference to business success and customer retention. The 6 main phases of the customer onboarding process are:
- Evaluation of client needs and resources
- Formulating a strategic project plan
- Setting up your team
- Team orientation meeting
- Client Meeting
- 30-day client follow-up
The onboarding process cannot be successful without the following action steps:
- Welcoming the client onboard
- Gathering the relevant client information
- Defining expectations
- Setting up a project-specific communication system or platform
What areas of your client onboarding workflow can you improve to secure long-term customer satisfaction?
CustomersFirst Academy offers comprehensive customer service training designed to help you grow your skills and advance your career.
To keep learning and developing your knowledge of customer service, we highly recommend the additional resources below:
Effective Strategies for Managing Escalations in Customer Service
Customer Service Tools: Finding the Best Customer Database Software for Your Team
All You Need to Know about First Call Resolution in Customer Service
7 Effective Strategies to Improve Medical Customer Service